Friday, September 21, 2018

The Pros of Going PRO: How the New & Improved STTF Can Help Employers Develop & Retain the Talent They Need


Since 2013 the Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) has provided nearly $73 million in funding for training and apprenticeships. Starting this fall, another $29 million will be available for businesses throughout Michigan through the Going PRO Talent Fund, the new face of STTF. Although its name has changed, Going PRO is still as big and powerful as ever, helping to drive Michigan’s economy and provide manufacturers with the talent they need to compete and grow.

Created by Michigan Works!, an established partner in developing our state’s economic future, Going PRO provides competitive funding to employers to assist in training, developing and retaining current and newly hired employees. Through a collaborative statewide network of workforce and employee skill development partners, this program supports employer responsive training and enhances talent, productivity and employment retention while increasing the quality and competitiveness of Michigan’s businesses. The type of training this funding can be used for must be short-term and fill a demonstrated talent need experienced by the employer, with past examples including anything from welding to robotics to CNC programming to on-the-job training.

Any Michigan employer with a need for skill enhancement, including apprenticeship programs and advance-tech training programs, may be eligible to apply for funding. To begin the application process, companies must first contact their local Michigan Works! office to assess their talent skill gaps and determine if Going PRO funding would be an appropriate solution. Once this has been decided, they will work together to develop the necessary training plan, identify and document the number of individuals to be trained and find all available funding and resources to be used. To get in touch with your local Michigan Works! office, or to learn more about the services this program provides, visit http://www.michiganworks.org/.

How Michigan Works! Can Work for You
Manufacturers hoping to enhance the skills of their workers can find support through Going PRO. Through this program, employers can work with Michigan Works! to get the training they need to ultimately eliminate gaps in talent at their facility. Going PRO provides more than just funding, as it also provides employers with loyal, ever-developing talent devoted to growing with the company. Through this service, Going PRO can help manufacturers retain and develop the talent they need to thrive, right at home.

Applications for FY 2019 funding are due October 3, 2018. To get assistance with the application process, or to learn about our Going PRO-funded training options, contact The Center at 888.414.6682 or inquiry@the-center.org.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Get a Peek into the Factory of the Future at Integr8

By: Elliot Forsyth

Manufacturing is changing. The industry is entering a new era, with oncoming workforce and technological advancements set to transform manufacturing as we know it. In this emerging age of smart manufacturing, a number of factors are contributing to this evolution:
  • Workforce changes. Out with baby boomers, in with millennials and Generation Z. The manufacturing landscape is facing a drastic shift in the type of talent available and interests of oncoming generations, which will inevitably lead to changes in manufacturing operations and capabilities. The influx of younger workers on the factory floor is expected to increase technology use in production, both to draw in these tech-savvy generations and to boost companies’ efficiencies and competitive edges in the evolving industry.
  • New technological and data applications. Several emerging technological innovations that fall under the Industry 4.0 umbrella, including additive manufacturing, robotics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), are being increasingly adopted by manufacturers across the nation. With this rise in technology use comes a related rise in the use of data and analytics to inform and power operations to achieve higher levels of efficiency than previously thought possible. Manufacturers who choose to adopt such innovations and use them to their full potential can realize new growth, emerge into different markets, grow from reactive to predictive in maintenance practices and maintain a safer and more efficient atmosphere.
  • Increased importance of cybersecurity. Following this use of technology, risks associated with cybersecurity have skyrocketed. Manufacturing is now a top five target for cyber-attacks, with 43% of attacks targeting small businesses. This level of danger will only continue to grow as production becomes increasingly dependent on technology. This is not a reason to avoid technological innovations, however, but rather a reason to prioritize establishing safe cyber practices within your company. This will ensure your company can continue advancing with the industry, while staying protected.
While these aspects have been largely discussed in articles and blog posts, many manufacturers are still left wondering what these innovations look like in reality and how their business can effectively navigate these changes. Manufacturers interested in keeping up with the changing industry landscape can get a first-hand look at these topics and more at Integr8, an annual event focused on advancing smart manufacturing presented by Automation Alley. Through keynote presentations, panel discussions, hands-on technology demonstrations and breakout sessions, attendees gain the opportunity to experience and learn more about these innovations they’ve otherwise only heard about.

Held on November 14th in Detroit, this one-day event provides manufacturers with the insights and confidence necessary to implement new technological innovations and adapt with oncoming industry transformations. To get a front row seat to the factory of the future, register for Integr8 here. Be sure to use our code “TheCenter” for a discounted price.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance.



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Let the Countdown Begin: Celebrate Manufacturing Day on October 5th!

By: Brian Mamo

Manufacturing Day answers the question: what does it mean to be a manufacturer? If you were to ask 20 people this question, you would get 20 different answers. This is because of not only the lack of awareness of the manufacturing industry, but also the ever-changing nature of manufacturing itself. These two aspects combined make it difficult for the layperson to really grasp what it means to be a manufacturer, resulting in misperceptions and negative views of the industry.

Manufacturing Day was created in 2012 in an effort to close the gap between what people think manufacturing is and what it actually is. Now an officially observed holiday, this nation-wide celebration of manufacturing continues to gain awareness and participants each year, with Michigan leading the effort in recent years with 211 events in 2016 and 272 events in 2017.

The driving force behind Manufacturing Day is to celebrate modern manufacturing and continue to advance the industry through the following efforts:
  • Change perceptions about manufacturing. Due to outdated and incorrect views of the industry, parents and students have the wrong idea of what manufacturing really is. While many may circulate the idea that manufacturing is dark, dirty and dangerous, this is no longer the case. Factories are now more safe and organized than ever, with strong safety regulations and updated equipment helping to make manufacturing one of the most viable career options on the market today.
  • Increase awareness of manufacturing career options available. Another misperception about manufacturing is that jobs offer low pay and are not competitive. Companies engaged in Manufacturing Day events work to go against this misunderstanding and instead show participants exactly how rewarding careers in manufacturing can be, through both quality of work and pay. This work has proven to be effective as those who attend Manufacturing Day events are 84% more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding, as seen in the infographic below.
  • Celebrate what manufacturers do every day. Aside from the serious motivating factors behind Manufacturing Day, the main goal is to celebrate. It’s a chance for manufacturers around the U.S. to open their doors to the public and show them what they do every day. In doing so, manufacturers and attendees alike are able to celebrate the role manufacturing plays in our economy and its significant impact on our everyday lives.

This year, Manufacturing Day officially falls on Friday, October 5th, although manufacturers are free to celebrate any day they choose, or even opt for Manufacturing Week or Manufacturing Month.  If you’re looking to connect with future generations, begin addressing the skills gap and present a new image of manufacturing to the world, consider hosting your own Manufacturing Day event!

Need Help Getting Started?
Follow these three steps to ensure your Manufacturing Day event is a success:
  1. Decide what type of event you’ll host. From plant tours to expos to career fairs, thousands of manufacturers host unique events each year. Choose which is best for you and your facility.
  2. Register your event online. Visit the Manufacturing Day website (www.mfgday.com) to make your event official and get the word out about your special celebration. You can choose which day to hold your event, and whether to make it public or keep it private. 
  3. Use the event toolkit for extra help. Want to make sure your event draws in the right crowd? The Manufacturing Day toolkit will give you all the advice and resources you need to make sure your event is effective.
The future of manufacturing is up to you. Make this the year you join in the Manufacturing Day celebration and show everyone what it really means to be a manufacturer, and help keep Michigan #1 in the nation.

For extra assistance with your event planning, contact The Center at inquiry@the-center.org.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Brian Mamo
Senior Business Solutions Manager

Brian Mamo is a Senior Business Solutions Manager at The Center. In his role, Brian works directly with manufacturers in Macomb County, providing services and support that enable them to compete, grow and prosper. Brian has more than 25 years of experience as a trusted advisor to hundreds of clients in several industries including the manufacturing, industrial, medical and service industries. Prior to joining The Center, Brian spent the past seven years as Director of Business Development and member of the Executive Team of a facility maintenance company. In addition to managing the sales team, Brian worked to redesign the company’s sales and marketing plan while streamlining the sales and operations delivery process.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Strong Leadership: The Key to Shaping Millennials into Manufacturers

By: Jamie Headley

Employers across America are dealing with the combined effect of baby boomers retiring, a strong economy and record low unemployment. Now faced with the large labor shortage this perfect storm has created, manufacturers are looking to the next generation of workers to fill this gap: millennials.

When I talk with executives about their feelings toward the emerging workforce, some common grievances I hear include: “They don’t want to work” or “They want to be promoted every 10 minutes” or “All they want to do is play on their phones.” The resounding message is that today’s hiring managers do not see this group of workers as the answer to their needs. The fact is, millennials are the present and future workforce of this country.  So how can we bridge this gap?

First, let’s stop playing the blame game.  The term “millennial,” which is meant to simply refer to someone born between the years of 1980 and 2000, now carries with it negative connotations of being lazy and entitled. However, we all know plenty of people in their forties and fifties who act entitled and demonstrate less than stellar work ethics. We also know plenty of people in their twenties who want to work hard to establish a career. Yes, this generation may have different priorities than prior ones, but isn’t that always the case?

Secondly, let’s keep in mind some typical characteristics shared by people of this young age:

Maturity – New hires entering the workforce after high school or college are immature. This is not an insult, it is just a biological fact.  The human brain does not fully develop until the mid to late twenties. Particularly the frontal lobe, which is responsible for attention, tasks, planning, motivation, understanding future consequences of current actions and modifying emotional responses into socially acceptable reactions. Employers need to be aware of this and work to communicate with young employees regarding expectations and consequences.

Job Experience – Our perception of life is deeply based on our experiences. Many people entering the workforce have little or no experience in a full-time job role, so they may struggle, feel lost or fear failure when first getting a “real job,” thus wanting to quit.

Financial Knowledge – It can be difficult to really understand the value of money until you have to support yourself. Fiscal understanding is a big part of what motivates people to come to work everyday. When you are in your twenties, having little or no money is common. Living at home , eating ramen noodles and driving a beater of a car are all typical experiences of being young. For many, as we mature our desire for a more financially stable life grows. The value we put on money then evolves and, in turn, our attitude toward work changes.

Life Wisdom – When I graduated college, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I thought I knew it all. Life had not humbled me yet. I suspect young adults today are not much different, so it is not surprising  they want to move up the corporate food chain faster than may be realistic.

These are traits that are not necessarily specific to millennials, but are typical of most people as they enter adulthood.  My guess is that if we took an honest look back at how we were during that period in our lives, we would discover we weren’t much different.

Enlightening as this may be, how does this help our labor issue?

It all comes down to leadership. Good leadership is timeless.  From Alexander the Great to Alan Mulally (CEO, Ford Motor Company), people who provide great leadership achieve great results even in difficult situations – regardless of generation or age.

All great leaders have a few things in common that contribute to their effectiveness. They set a vision, develop a strategy to achieve that vision, communicate the strategy to workers, empower and motivate their team and execute tactical measures only if they are in support of the overall vision. Companies with engaging cultures and low turnover also have the following in common:
  • Hiring/Onboarding/Training process – Hire the right people and help them acclimate, succeed and grow.
  • Succession plans – Identify career paths for moving up in the organization as workers develop.
  • Employee feedback process – Ask workers why they stay, why they leave, what they need, etc.
  • Leadership training – Establish continual learning from the top down.
  • Commitment to being the workplace of choice – Maintain a focus on being the best workplace you can be.
Implementing the above can be an undertaking. It is often an investment of time, energy and money, but it is an investment that will pay dividends as employees gain a new understanding of personal responsibility and loyalty, while supporting your company’s vision. Instead of focusing on the differences between your workplace generations, focus on how to bridge these gaps to successfully nurture and lead employees of all ages.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Jamie Headley
Senior Business Solutions Manager

As Senior Business Solutions Manager, Jamie works as an advisor to Michigan manufacturers in the Southwest region of the state, helping them to “manufacture smarter.”  Jamie is a seasoned operations professional with expertise in change management, strategic planning, leadership, process improvement, lean implementations, cost containment and operational excellence. With more than 25 years of manufacturing and consulting experience, Jamie has served as Director of Supply Chain for Catalent Pharma Solutions, Vice President of Operations for Art.com and President and CEO of Dementia Services Group.  




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Is Your Business Performing as Well as It Could Be?

By: George Singos

We recently posted a blog about the importance of cascading policy deployment in achieving
business visions. While this company-wide alignment is essential to realizing strategic goals, progress cannot be made without maintaining a strong sense of how well the business is performing. This is where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come into play. By establishing, monitoring and analyzing KPIs, such as on-time delivery, changeover time or schedule bumping, companies will be equipped with the data and guidance necessary to align their business toward success.

However, looking at internal KPIs without knowing where your company stands within the market can make it difficult to fully comprehend how well your business is operating. To help manufacturers compare their KPIs with those of like companies, The Center developed the Transformation Planner. This assessment tool gathers data about an organization’s operations through nine KPIs to assess a company’s effectiveness. By using this assessment, companies will determine:
  • Where does your company stand? All data is compared against The Center’s growing database of relevant, related companies. In doing so, businesses can discover how well their KPIs stack up against peers.
  • What areas need improving? In analyzing these KPIs, companies can identify which metrics fall short of reaching goals. Once these areas have been identified, a deployment plan for improvement can be created.
Most manufacturers probably think they are already performing as effectively as possible. However, making even small changes to improve a few KPIs can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. For example, let’s look at how Acme Corporation tackled four of their problem areas to realize massive improvements.

Acme’s journey began by completing the Transformation Planner with their company’s current business information. From there, The Center’s experts worked to identify which metrics were weaker than peers’ values, essentially identifying which areas to improve. As seen below, this data was put into a table to compare current values with targeted values for each of the nine performance metrics measured, including both Acme’s values as well as placement among similar companies.




By evaluating these numbers, four significant areas of improvement were identified – Inventory Turns, Run as a % of Available, Scrap and Rework and Schedule Bumping – to boost Acme’s profitability and get their operations on track for success.
  1. Inventory Turns. This serves as a fundamental measure of lean performance and ability to convert expense into billings. A high Inventory Turns value often signifies a nimble company – one able to respond quickly to changes in demand. Low turns may result from excessive raw, finished or in-process inventory stocks. By identifying this as a weak point in Acme’s operations and increasing their Inventory Turns value from 7 to 8.5, a seemingly small improvement, Acme was able to gain an additional $26,470.59 each year, with $176,470.59 of cash not in Inventory. 
  2. Run as a % of Available. The best measure of your equipment utilization is how many hours your processing lines or systems run in a year. Once the appropriate level of run time is determined, the actual number of hours running must be evaluated. The goal is to attack the drivers of downtime, including long or unnecessary changeovers, unreliable supplier delivery, poor housekeeping and materials management, inadequate preventive maintenance and poor breakdown prediction. For Acme, achieving a 10% increase in Run as a % of Available boosted their competitiveness by more than 30% as well as earned them an additional $274,126.46 annually.
  3. Scrap and Rework. Scrap is waste from errors in the manufacturing process, composed of both lost labor and loss of materials that cannot be salvaged. Scrap directly decreases profitability due to the loss of time and materials. The requirement to run more product to compensate for scrap has a rippling effect on on-time delivery, making current and subsequent jobs late. Rework is an expense of labor that can occur before or after a product ships, which involves modifying a product to get it to conform to customer specifications. By decreasing their Scrap and Rework value from 1.5% to 0.75%, Acme increased competitiveness by 20% and achieved an annual benefit of $52,500. 
  4. Schedule Bumping. Interrupting a scheduled job often results in lost equipment run time, additional labor cost and poor delivery performance. Not only can "bumping" the scheduled job result in at least one extra changeover, but it also leads to more idle time and overtime pay for operators as well as increased charges for premium freight. Through targeting a 5% decrease in  Schedule Bumping, Acme gained an additional $38,201.92 annually and boosted their competitiveness by nearly 30%.
As seen with Acme’s success, by identifying and tracking your company’s areas of weakness and making even small adjustments to operations, your business can realize significant benefits both immediately and down the line. No matter how well your business may be running now, there is always room for improvement.

To learn more about how the Transformation Planner can transform your business, click here or contact The Center at 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
George Singos
Business Leader Advisor

George Singos is the Business Leader Advisor for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. He has accumulated more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in Business Development, Sales & Marketing Management, Project Planning, Quality Management, Costing and Scheduling. Prior to joining The Center, George worked in International Business Development, where his primary focus was growing International Sales in Europe and East Asia while supporting North American, South American and ASEAN operations.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Not All Food Failures Are Hazardous, but All Are Costly

By: John Spillson

The idea of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) was formally introduced to the world by the military shortly after WWII. Due to failures in munitions during the campaign, this methodology was developed to identify and eliminate critical defects in production. In the 1950s, FMEAs began to be applied in aerospace and rocket development to achieve high levels of quality and safety. Another significant push for failure prevention came in the 1960s with the increase in space exploration as countries around the world raced to put a man on the moon. Ford Motor Company first introduced the FMEA process to the automotive world in the late 1970s for safety and regulatory consideration, likely in response to the rupturing fuel tanks in the Ford Pinto. Now, in modern-day manufacturing, FMEAs are quite commonly used.

Everything we do as manufacturers, and food processors, can be described as a process.  FMEAs help identify what can go wrong within a process as you create, make or assemble your product. Although this is often associated with a manufacturing process, it can be applied to any process (which involves inputs being turned into outputs). FMEAs are used to analyze possible failures or risks, along with the potential severity, chance of occurrence and detection rate of each risk.

FSMA ≠ FMEA
However, food processors already follow food safety laws under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Wouldn’t an FMEA cover what’s already mandated through these regulations, making it redundant and unnecessary? Not really. While the FSMA functions to prevent hazards with serious health consequences associated with them, an FMEA works to prevent potential failures or defects that don’t just involve health hazards, but failures in quality as well.  This means it is beneficial to use both the FSMA and an FMEA together to prevent the most risks possible and produce quality products.

Quality is much more than producing safe food. There are many instances where this is evident in the food industry, including:
  • a salad served with too much dressing
  • pizza prepared with too little sauce or toppings
  • a muffin that’s slightly overcooked or dry
  • potato chips that aren’t evenly seasoned
  • a resealable bag that doesn’t seem to reseal
All are examples of products that can be viewed as failures, defects or essentially non-quality.  The cost of quality is often considered, but the cost of non-quality should never be overlooked. This is especially true in an era when instant gratification and social media are so prevalent, making it possible for a disappointing product to be quickly broadcast to the world, damaging both your company’s reputation and sales.

Where does an FMEA fit into all this? The focus of an FMEA is to consider, identify and prevent any potential defects or failures. Scrap, rework and dissatisfied customers all come with a cost. Having to discard inferior goods, remake products or make employees work overtime to redo orders only amplifies the impact. Identifying defects or risks in the planning process – before they become an issue – could yield enormous benefits down the line.

To get the most out of performing an FMEA, follow these three steps:
  1.  Do the FMEA.
    • Identify each step in your process and for each ask the question, "What can go wrong?" This would be your Failure Mode.
    • For each identified Failure Mode, determine the type and severity of potential consequences. This would be the Effects. Be sure to look at the potential cause of the Failure Mode to determine how to prevent it from occurring.
    • Look at how the Failure Mode could be detected so it won't reach the consumer, or even the next step in the process. Although you may not be able to control how bad the effect would be, you will likely be able to lessen the likelihood of it happening or make it easier to detect.
  2. Determine what you need to do differently to keep a failure from occurring. Realize that all things affect all things by understanding the correlations between operations.
  3. Implement corrective actions. This involves incorporating continuous improvement steps, increasing training and error-proofing your processes.

Romaine Recall: Prevent Disaster with an FMEA
Recently, contaminated romaine lettuce left experts baffled and hundreds sick around the United States. In June 2018, officials reported the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria had been found in an irrigation canal in the Yuma, Ariz., area, where it was originally grown, recalling all affected lettuce. While preventive controls measures (those outlined in the FSMA) should involve water testing measures or finished product cleaning measures, an FMEA would have identified the irrigation canal as an ‘area of concern’ when looking at the process of growing romaine lettuce. Performing this FMEA could have prevented this health and safety catastrophe from ever occurring, proving just how beneficial an FMEA can be.


MEET OUR EXPERT
John Spillson
Food Business Development Manager

John works to develop and expand the food program at The Center. His experience operating his own business has given him knowledge in production, sales, food safety, marketing, warehousing and logistics. John comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, following both parents and grandparents in operating their own family food businesses. Prior to joining The Center, John owned and operated his own food processing company for more than 20 years.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Internal Audits Made Easy – And Practical

By: Dale Wicker

If your company is registered to one of the ISO Quality Management Systems (ISO 9001, AS9100, ISO 13485, IATF 16949), then you are required to perform internal audits at planned intervals to verify the conformance of your system. Since these ISO standards are process-based, these audits should be developed and scheduled around the company’s current processes to assure the organization can meet the intended results and satisfy its customers.

What does this look like in practice? For example, prior to committing to a customer’s order, you must review their contract (or quote) for requirements to confirm your organization can meet their demands. These “demands” typically include things like quality, cost and timing.  The established process for contract review in your organization should be clear and, in many cases, documented, identifying the inputs needed, the activity to be performed and the expected output. Records of the review then need to be retained.

When auditing this process, the inputs, activity and outputs are reviewed and verified based on the requirements of the standard, your customer and your own organization, along with your implementation and practice.

A Practical Approach to Auditing
Internal ISO audits typically have three principles to consider regardless of the scope:  intent, implementation and practice. Each of these principles form a portion of each audit and the auditor must understand how they are satisfied within the scope of their audit.

One might wonder, “What do I need to check for each of these principles?” To answer this question, let’s look at samples for each in the context of completing a Contract Review (Figure 1 below).  Note that in some organizations, ‘Contract Review’ may fall under other names such as Quoting or Sales and Quoting, etc.

FIGURE 1 - Contract Review Process


For the first principle – intent – the internal auditor needs to verify that the company’s process for Contract Review meets the requirements of the applicable ISO standard and other referenced documents. This typically is done as part of the audit preparation, where the auditor compares the ISO Standard (external standard) to the organization’s current procedures and processes to guarantee that all pertinent requirements have been addressed. This also may include any applicable customer-specific requirements mentioned in the contract. 

Looking at Figure 1, the procedures for ‘Feasibility Reviews’ and ‘Contract Reviews,’ or P1.2 and P1.3, would be reviewed and compared to the input documents to assure all relevant requirements are being addressed. This process is typically called a desk audit, and it provides the auditor with an understanding of the requirements that must be addressed, and ensures the organization has addressed them.

The next principle, implementation effectiveness, has two parts: awareness and availability.  For procedures P1.2 and P1.3 mentioned above, the auditor would want to verify that the personnel who need to use these documents are familiar with them (reviewed, trained, etc.), and the procedures are readily available to them in their day-to-day activities when and where they are needed. The documents may be available via electronic media or hardcopy, whichever the organization prefers.

The third part is practice effectiveness. Several things can come into play when determining the effectiveness of an organization’s practices. The customer’s requirements may specify certain metrics that need to be verified. The company may have timing, cost or quality metrics in place for the process being audited. There may be departmental goals or metrics established. This is where a process flow or map is helpful, which lists the inputs, process activity, expected outputs and any measures associated with the process.  

In Figure 1 above, Performance Indicators are listed for Contract Review. Timing and Quotes In Process reports are monitored by management. While these are the main metrics of the process, others may be identified in the procedures or other documents as well.

For Contract Review, there may be a checklist of items to consider related to product requirements, process capability, capacity, timing, changes, cost, materials, etc. Key personnel may be identified as to who must review and approve the contract. The resulting output should be clear and record retention identified. The auditor could look at Contracts in various stages of review – newly initiated, work in process and completed reviews – then compare production jobs on the floor to the contract requirements to ensure they are being met. In Figure 1 above, procedures P1.2 and P1.3 would identify most, if not all, of these items.

Any internal audit of a quality management system element should consider intent, implementation and practice to determine conformance.  If an auditor keeps these three principles in mind, they will find the auditing process to be more comprehensive and more practical than ever before.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Dale Wicker
Quality Program Manager

Dale Wicker is a member of The Center's Quality Team. He manages and delivers training and assistance to organizations in the areas of quality improvements and environmental management systems. Some of his projects involve support with the implementation of a Quality Management System including: ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, AS 9100 and ISO 14001. Dale also conducts training and provides consulting on the supporting tools of Quality Systems.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.



Friday, July 27, 2018

The Power of Policy Deployment for Your Business

By: Miguel Gomez

What is the vision that drives your company? Why do you operate each day? What do you hope to achieve? Do your employees have the same goals? Many organizations find that their larger company visions can be forgotten in day-to-day firefighting. This is detrimental to success as workers at every level are left unaware of what they should be doing or how their work contributes to larger business goals. How can your company make sure your corporate vision is clearly understood and followed throughout the entire organization? The answer lies in policy deployment.

A description of what an organization would like to achieve in the short or long-term is often referred to as the vision. This serves as a clear guide for deciding current and future courses of action. Most companies establish the vision as the starting point for all strategic planning, risk identification and tactical deployment to ensure that major initiatives align with larger goals.

In order to successfully establish and achieve a vision, companies must create an organizational structure capable of turning a vision into action through policy deployment. With effective policy deployment in place, the vision is used to inform goals and initiatives at all levels of the organization. The company vision drives the business plan, and high-level strategic plans are converted into tactical actions or projects, which organize everyone in the organization to pull in the same direction.

Various methods have been developed to ensure that the strategic goals of a company drive progress and actions throughout the organization. One of these methods is Hoshin Kanri.  Hoshin, a Japanese term meaning “self-protection,” and Kanri, meaning “management,” together translate to “policy deployment.” This method of policy deployment requires a strong strategic vision to succeed. This is accomplished by keeping strategies, organizational capabilities, resources and management systems arranged in a manner that support the company’s goals through a vision understood and lived by the entire organization. The main objective of this method is to get every individual in the organization to become aligned with the vision and achieve set strategic goals by following steps outlined in the tactical plan (see figure below).


How can this realistically be achieved at your company? Follow these three steps:
  1. Create a strategic plan. As seen in the figure above, policy deployment starts at the top. Management is in charge of setting a company vision and strategic plan that focus on a few critical issues that need company-wide support and alignment. An important component of this step is to identify and track relevant metrics to monitor progress of goals. Otherwise, goals are meaningless.
  2. Develop tactics. With the vision and strategic plan established, they must then be transformed into tactical actions to outline how goals will actively be achieved. This will identify specific tasks to be accomplished at each level of the organization, effectively establishing how all departments and workers will contribute to achieving the company vision. 
  3. Check and balance. Regular reviews of the plan and its success are critical to ensure ongoing, company-wide support. Constantly monitor progress throughout your organization to identify areas of misalignment and keep employees on track with realizing the company vision.
What Does a Cascading Vision Look Like in Practice?
A solid vision statement acts as a guide for employee actions and decision-making in all departments. For example, if your organization is working towards achieving higher customer satisfaction, this goal will cascade to every level of the organization. The quality department might then focus on decreasing defects and maintaining more quality products, while those in distribution work to ensure all products are delivered on time, with each serving the larger company goal of improving customer satisfaction.

In terms of daily performance, if a worker is deciding which project to undertake next, or how to best perform a task, they should ask themselves, “Am I being consistent with the organization’s vision statement?” If the answer is no, now is the time to pause, evaluate and, if need be, align the action or decision with the vision statement. The vision provides the guidance employees need to make the right decisions, regardless of department or project type.

Find Success with Your Policy Deployment
Achieving this company-wide alignment is not always easy, however. Many factors can hold a company back from realizing their vision, including:
  • Top management is not aware of misalignment among its workforce
  • Nobody in the organization has ownership of the responsibility for alignment
  • Organizational model is too complex for alignment
Successful organizations learn to identify and mitigate the negative forces being exerted on their alignment efforts. For example, a flattened management structure is beneficial to Hoshin Kanri. The fewer levels there are the easier it is to cascade goals down, and the fewer opportunities there are for strategy to be muddled through successive layers of translation. Fewer layers also means faster decision-making.

People perform best when they have a purpose; when they understand not just what to do, but why it’s important. One of the advantages of Hoshin Kanri is that it can help to create that purpose, providing focus and drive towards specific, company-wide goals.

Your business will benefit from you putting the effort into creating a shared vision, strategic plan and associated tactics. By keeping employees aware of their role in achieving the company vision, they will gain a deeper understanding of why their work is important and how their tasks support larger company goals. With these elements in place, your company will be on the right path to realizing its vision.

To learn more about how to keep your business on track for success, come to The Center's upcoming free Explore event where I will discuss how to apply "core tools," such as APQP, PPAP, FMEA, MSA & SPC, to your organization to support your continuous improvement initiatives.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Miguel Gomez
Quality Program Manager

Miguel is a Quality Program Manager at The Center. In his role, Miguel manages and delivers training and implementation assistance for Quality and Environmental Management Systems. Miguel comes from a strong technical background in Quality operations management, utilizing his experience in the industry to assist companies with implementing management systems including ISO 9001:2015, IATF 16949, ISO 14001 and Core Tools.






Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, July 20, 2018

LEAN: Learn, Educate And Network

By: Betsy Williams

At Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) in Traverse City, the tradition of sharing and learning from others on a lean journey launched the Northern Michigan Lean Learning Consortium (LLC) 10 years ago. Two years later, the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) was founded by a group of nine forward-thinking individuals who firmly believed that if every Michigan organization used lean principles, the state's economy would rebound. Richard Wolin, director of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center’s Northern Lower office, was a part of the group that spearheaded the formation of this organization for lean learners, with members’ skills stretching from novice to advanced. To date, there are more than 1,100 members statewide.

Each year, MLC hosts a conference that brings together individuals from across Michigan and all areas of industry to learn and network. Our 8th Annual Conference will be held in Traverse City on August 8-9, 2018. A number of improvements have been made to this year’s event, with a significant change being a new registration website that eases the process of selecting breakout sessions and staying up-to-date on all aspects of the conference.

Several keynote speakers will present exclusive insights on the latest lean applications at this conference. One of this year’s keynote speakers is Karyn Ross, co-author of Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations. She will share how to gain value, get results and grow your business. Whether you are an executive, manager, consultant or frontline worker who deals with customers every day, you'll learn how take advantage of all lean has to offer.

Being a leader in a lean organization requires a special skillset. To address this, we have developed a leadership track series that encompasses a nine-month learning opportunity. This series will involve pre-work and assessments, and participants will be paired with a lean mentor for six months. More information about this offering will be shared at the conference, where lean industry leaders will deliver a designated break out session track for this series.

Networking, learning from others and entertaining are key emphases of our conference. This year, we will have a kick-off welcome session on Tuesday evening, August 7, at Traverse City’s Right Brain Brewery, which just started its own lean journey last fall. There will be no special registration for this event, as we encourage all conference attendees to come and enjoy.

Please register now and join us to see what else this conference has to offer. And – for those who attended last year – “Yes, there will be bacon!”

If you have questions about this event, or would like to volunteer, please contact me at ewilliams@nmc.edu.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Betsy Williams
Business Development and Training Specialist
Northwestern Michigan College,The Center- Northern Lower

As Business Development and Training Specialist at NMC, Betsy has more than 30 years of experience in operational development and management. In the past, Betsy worked as a travel executive and consultant, gaining experience in customer service and providing creative solutions to customers. Betsy currently serves on the Michigan Lean Consortium Board of Directors and Event Committee, and is a Certified Lean Champion. Her work is fueled by her passion for lean and helping clients achieve real results.






Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Facing the Talent Shortage Head-On with Apprenticeships

By: Elliot Forsyth

Having skilled, competent employees is key to an organization’s success. This is no longer easy for manufacturers to come by, however, as a massive talent shortage has emerged in the industry in recent years, leaving many jobs unfilled and tasks undone. It is expected that this talent gap will result in millions of positions remaining vacant in the years to come, a number that will only continue to grow if nothing is done to counteract this trend.

To provide solutions, we must first understand the roots of the problem. Many issues and challenges have combined to create the perfect storm for manufacturing jobs, including:
  1. Silver Tsunami. The large number of baby boomers retiring each year, also referred to as the “silver tsunami,” has been anticipated for years, yet it is still a main contributing factor to the talent shortage. These experienced workers continue to leave the workforce at an increasing rate, taking their skills with them and leaving behind vacancies that cannot be filled easily. Decades of experience in manufacturing cannot be taught to new workers overnight, making it nearly impossible to sufficiently fill the voids these workers leave behind.
  2. Industry 4.0. As new and interconnected technologies, commonly known as Industry 4.0, continue to grow in the manufacturing world, more and more manufacturers are having difficulty keeping up with the latest trends. In addition to trying to understand the vast amount of innovations currently on the market, manufacturers face the added challenge of finding talent with the skills and education necessary to operate such technologies. Industry 4.0 calls for a new kind of worker, with more advanced and more specific skills than previously needed for a career in manufacturing, adding to the gap in talent needed and talent available.
  3. Education and training. The issue of insufficient training and education has contributed largely to the skills gap facing manufacturers. From lack of interest in STEM career paths to lack of awareness about career opportunities available to lack of proper training for those interested in pursuing a manufacturing career, it can be difficult to prepare the students of today for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow. 
At this point you may be asking yourself, “How can we close the skills gap?” I recently published a blog offering one answer to this problem: education reform. There I explained how Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), along with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), are working to gather insights and recommend changes or additions to college courses to better target the skills gap and prepare workers for current manufacturing job requirements.

Another solution is apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships are one of the most effective, proven ways to directly train and retain workers while shrinking the talent shortage. As most processes in manufacturing involve detailed protocols and a deep understanding of equipment, it is crucial that all workers have comprehensive training in order to be successful. Placing students directly on the factory floor with experienced employees providing guidance can eliminate challenges associated with poor training. Implementing on-the-job training for students not only provides them with valuable hands-on learning experiences, but connects manufacturers with future workers.

Additionally, apprenticeships provide manufacturers with a way to invest in the future of their company and their employees, giving them a solid foundation and room to grow within their organization. Investing time and effort in training and developing staff through apprenticeships can boost your company’s desirability, helping workers to envision future growth and career opportunities in your company. This can support employee retention efforts, as well as attract outside workers seeking to grow their skills. Ultimately your organization can become a company of choice that is recognized for its commitment to developing the next generation of manufacturers.

Want to start your own apprenticeship program? Come to a free info session hosted by Automation Alley and The Center to learn more about how to implement a registered apprenticeship program in your facility. Held from 9:30 am to 11:30 am on Tuesday, July 24 in Plymouth, speakers at this event will answer the following questions:
  • What is a registered apprenticeship program?
  • Why should my company consider implementing this training model?
  • What resources are available to get started?
Methods such as apprenticeships and education reform are two proven ways to combat the talent shortage. Although it will take years of combined efforts from the government, schools and manufacturers to successfully address this skills gap, steps such as these can go a long way in raising the next generation of manufacturers.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, June 22, 2018

What Does a Food Safety Plan Really Consist Of?

By: John Spillson

In 2011 President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law, bringing about the most sweeping changes the food safety industry has seen in 70 years. This introduced the Food Safety Plan (FSP), which is the primary document that guides your Preventive Controls Food Safety System. While the ‘why’ of the FSMA has been publicized quite extensively, not as much has been explained about the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘how’ and ‘when.’

To answer these questions, we must first start with ‘what’ it is in order to understand ‘who’ should be involved and ‘how’ to comply, as well as ‘why’ you’d want to. Previous food safety standards were mostly reactionary, while the new movement puts its focus on prevention through risk-based analysis. The focus of the new FSP lies in the prevention of hazards throughout the process. The FDA is granted more authority to offer guidance and assess fines and fees, as well as order recalls (which had previously been left to individual companies). Food processors also are now tasked with incurring more inspections, increasing record keeping and monitoring supply chains.

The crux of the FSP can be summed up in two words: preventive controls. Preventive controls are specific to a facility and product, taking into consideration the severity of a hazard as well as its likeliness of occurring. The process of preventive controls begins with understanding the food safety pyramid (not to be confused with the food group pyramid). As seen in the figure below, the foundation of every FSP should be well-written and effective Prerequisite Programs (PRPs), current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). Quite often preventive controls will exist in these foundational programs.
HACCP and HARPC plans, the next level on the pyramid, rely on solid PRPs, cGMPs and SSOPs in order to be effective. Only after these robust standards are in place can you consider a Global Food Safety Initiative-recognized scheme such as SQF, BRC or FSSC 22000. Having a solid understanding of the four categories where hazards may lie – physical, chemical, biological and radiological – helps develop the game plan for preventing these hazards from occurring.

The three big takeaways here are to identify, prevent and document. Identify the potential hazards or risks by considering their severity as well as likeliness to occur. Prevent and/or control the identified hazards through a proven or documented successful means. And finally, document, document, document. There must be a record of how an identified risk is controlled. If it’s not written down it didn’t happen. Recall plans also are an integral part of an FSP. Names, numbers and contact information must be readily available in order to contact the Reportable Food Registry, regulatory officials, impacted customers and even the public. It is best for food processors to think of themselves as food safety companies that happen to produce food.

Now that we know what it is and how to comply, we should explore who must be involved, and when they need to be compliant. New to the food safety acronym world are QI and PCQI.  QI, or Qualified Individual, is the name given to the person in the facility who performs a task. It doesn’t matter what the task is, as long as the person doing it has been adequately trained in performing that particular part of the process.

Second, and the true manager of the FSP, is the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual, or PCQI. The PCQI holds the most important role in the FSP: to develop, write and maintain the FSP. They must verify and validate the preventive controls as well as establish corrections or corrective actions when there has been a deviation from the FSP. This individual also needs to reevaluate the FSP every three years (or after any recall or significant change in a process). In order to become the company’s PCQI, an individual must either have adequate knowledge or job experience to develop and apply a food safety system, or complete a PCQI certification course.

In terms of who this applies to and when you must comply: Unless your company is so small and have been given an exemption, you’ll need to have an FSP, complete with a recall plan in order to sell your packaged food in a retail setting. Food processors with sales above $1M and more than 500 employees were required to comply by September of 2016, while small processors with fewer than 500 employees had to comply by September of 2017. Very small processors, those with sales below $1M, must comply by September of 2018.

FSMA brought forth many challenges and new ways of thinking for food processors, bringing benefits as well for safely producing food products. The old days of being reactionary now have been replaced with progressive, forward-thinking methodologies that aim to eliminate or control known hazards.

At The Center, we often work on-site with food processors to improve their efficiencies and make lasting changes. Additionally, we offer a one-day Fundamentals of Food Processing course that touches on FSMA/PCQI requirements and responsibilities, as well as the only recommended course to certify PCQIs. To learn more about these courses, or to register for an upcoming class, contact inquiry@the-center.org or call 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
John Spillson
Food Business Development Manager

John works to develop and expand the food program at The Center. His experience operating his own business has given him knowledge in production, sales, food safety, marketing, warehousing and logistics. John comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, following both parents and grandparents in operating their own family food businesses. Prior to joining The Center, John owned and operated his own food processing company for more than 20 years. He loves helping food processors almost as much as he loves food itself.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Stop Risk Before Risk Stops You: 5 Steps to Effective Risk Management

By: Roger Tomlinson

All successful project managers have one crucial ability in common, which ensures their projects never get derailed or end in disaster: effective risk management. This essential aspect of managing projects involves identifying, assessing and responding to potential project risks. Mastering risk management can improve your project management skills overall by guaranteeing your project is delivered on time and on budget, every time.

Looking to take your project management skills to the next level? Start with understanding project risks. Project risks are any elements that might affect your project. Although these risks could potentially have positive implications, they are generally associated with being negative. These risks can lead to any number of problems for your project, from your team not having the manpower or skillset required to complete a task, to critical raw materials not being available in the timeframe required.

Unchecked risks also can result in larger issues with following your schedule, meeting quality requirements or staying on budget. If not managed correctly, project risk can make it harder, or even impossible, to successfully deliver your project.

So how can you safeguard your project from disaster and keep it on track for success? The answer lies in creating a risk management plan. Read on for five steps to establishing a flawless risk management plan to set up your project for greatness.

Step 1: Identify the Risk
The importance of identifying and tracking risks cannot be understated. Building awareness of as many risks as possible will heighten your chances of successfully avoiding or managing risks. Creating a risk register, or list of potential project risks, can help you get a step ahead of all potential risks before they become problems. Your risk register forms the basis of your risk management plan, establishing an ongoing list of any risks that might impact your project. Hint: Lessons learned from past projects can be used to inform current risk registers. This list also should be maintained throughout the project lifecycle, as risks can appear and disappear as your project progresses.

Step 2: Assess the Risk  
Once risks have been identified, you must determine the associated cost of risks compared to the cost of mitigation efforts. This requires estimating how much a potential risk could cost the organization based on its probability, detectability and severity. Measuring risks in this way can ensure that everyone involved has a clear idea of what might happen, and what might be lost, if any of these risks arise.

Step 3: Plan Responses
What if these risks do arise? You should have an appropriate response plan in place for each potential risk.

Generally, there are four response categories that all risks fall into, which determine what you can do to address and manage a project risk. They are:
  • Avoid: Change your plans to dodge the risk entirely.
  • Transfer: Outsource the risk to a third party to manage the issue.
  • Mitigate/Reduce: Reduce the impact or likelihood of the risk.
  • Accept: Take the chance of a risk occurring.
Although unlikely, it is possible that some of your risks might have positive outcomes. For example, you might be at risk of selling so much of your product that a capacity issue arises. While this does have positive implications, it is best to plan for this type of situation in advance to avoid any related issues.

In the event that such a positive risk occurs, potential responses include:
  • Exploit: Ensure that the risk occurs to realize its positive benefits.
  • Share: Work together with a third party to achieve an opportunity associated with a risk.
  • Enhance: Increase the chance of a risk occurring to achieve its benefits.
  • Accept: Take the chance of a risk occurring.
Based on these categories, you can decide which response is best suited for the risk at hand. For example, you might decide that the risk of a bus driving into your office is something you’ll simply accept, as it isn’t very likely to happen. However, the risk that food poisoning takes out half of your workforce is something you will have to actively mitigate by ensuring all catering staff is properly trained.

Once the response is established, risk owners can be appointed to carry out each risk management action plan. Completion of this step demonstrates that you have thought through all potential risks and put plans in place to reduce uncertainty on the project.

Step 4: Implement Mitigation
Now that risk owners have been appointed, they can be held responsible for completing the necessary tasks for managing any open risks.

Reporting on the mitigated risks will help your management team see that you are serious about future-proofing your project against problems, while also providing mitigation plans to look back on if similar risks arise in the future.

Step 5:  Risk Monitoring
Once the risk management plan is finished and put into place, with risk owners, plans and risk registers actively at work, you will have to continually monitor all results throughout the duration of your project.  These reports also can be used as communication tools to keep all involved personnel aware of risk management outcomes.

Risk management can help any project run smoother, while further enforcing your creative and strategic capabilities as a project manager. By determining risks and actively managing problems before they happen, you can set yourself apart as a successful project manager and ensure you are prepared for any problem that might be thrown at you.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Roger Tomlinson
Lean Program Manager

Roger has been a Program Manager in The Center’s Lean Business Solutions program for 18 years. He has trained and mentored hundreds of Michigan manufacturers in the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methods (e.g., Kaizen events, Standardized Work, 5S/Workplace Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Total Productive Maintenance, Culture Change, Team Building, operations management and process re-engineering). In addition to his training and consulting work, Roger has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing management.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, June 8, 2018

There's Nothing Artificial About This Intelligence: How to Get the Facts You Need to Know

By: Shelly Stobierski

While “artificial intelligence” is a trendy buzz term in manufacturing today, there’s another type of intelligence that offers you a valuable strategic advantage: competitive intelligence. This method of market research is based on using tactics to continuously monitor the market and gather information to help your company keep up with the latest innovations, trends, competitor news, potential customers and a wide range of information that is meaningful to your operation.

Regardless of company size, type or budget, your business will benefit from an increased focus on what's happening in your industry and its potential impact on your growth and success. This is now more true and important than ever as newly introduced technologies and practices continue to change the manufacturing landscape at a rapid pace.

When faced with the daunting task of monitoring and implementing the latest innovations in the industry, many manufacturers choose to postpone their own implementations and instead watch competitors adopt technologies first. However, those who choose to take this “safer” route risk falling permanently behind as the market continues to advance without them. Fortunately for manufacturers, there are a few basic options that can streamline the process of continuous monitoring and make such improvements possible for companies of any size.

MYTH: Competitive Intelligence is Too Expensive for Me
With the right tools, competitive intelligence can be catered to your needs, your schedule and your budget. For example, setting up a “listening post,” or an email alert that gathers online content related to certain keywords, is one easy and free way to monitor the market. These keywords can be aimed toward something as broad as market news, or as specific as finding project proposals to connect with potential clients. You have the flexibility to decide how to use these alerts to boost your performance.

MYTH: Competitive Intelligence is Too Time-Consuming for Me
An added dimension of flexibility comes with deciding how often to receive these emails. When setting up your alerts, you are given the option to decide how often or infrequently the emails should be sent out so as not to overwhelm your inbox. This allows you to manage how much time your competitive intelligence research will take up each week, tailoring it to your own schedule.

It should be noted that your monitoring should not end after just one day of research. While it can be beneficial to gain a single snapshot of the industry, your company will get the most valuable information and insight from engaging in continuous monitoring of the market. After all, new technologies are introduced to the market each day. Although your company does not have to change as quickly as the industry itself, it would be helpful to start taking steps toward better and more competitive business practices with methods such as these – before the industry leaves you behind.

Monitoring the market using competitive intelligence should be a tactic that is as common as monitoring your machinery, inventory levels and budget. As noted above, it does not have to be overwhelmingly time-consuming or expensive. Simple tools can help your company gain a competitive advantage, identify opportunities and threats, and generate new business opportunities. All it takes is the desire to improve.

To learn more about how to empower your business with competitive intelligence, contact The Center at inquiry@the-center.org or call 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Shelly Stobierski
Director of Research Services

Shelly Stobierski is the Director of Research Services for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. She has more than 15 years of market research experience, the first 10 years with a primary focus on automotive-related manufacturing businesses. Shelly has extensive skills in survey research (phone, internet, focus groups) and in the use of proprietary industry databases. Prior to joining The Center, Shelly spent five years as a research analyst for a turnaround firm conducting secondary research with databases such as LexisNexis, Capital IQ, and IHS Automotive forecasts. That was preceded by seven years working in various levels of project management at leading primary research firms.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, June 1, 2018

How Football Can Help with Auditing a Process-Based QMS

By: Andy Nichols

An important requirement of ISO 9001 (and its “cousins,” AS9100 and IATF 16949) deals with internal quality management audits. One purpose of this internal audit program is to look at the processes within the quality management system. Common questions that internal auditors raise during this practice include, “How do I audit a process?” “Which processes should I start with?” and “How will I know if the process is effective?”

Starting at a very basic level, a process can be defined as “activities that transform inputs into outputs.” One might add to this definition that the activities occur “under controlled conditions,” since we usually prefer to be able to predict a (good) result or output! From this definition, we know a number of things already about any process, including that they have:
  • Input(s)
  • Output(s)
  • Activities
  • Controls
This is helpful to start with, but heading off to do an internal audit with only four topics on a checklist is unlikely to help us reveal if a process is working as intended. Auditors must build from this list by developing a better understanding of what is needed for a process to deliver a satisfactory outcome - for both the organization and its customers.

Most business processes have some form of goal or objective assigned to them, which can be focused externally on customers’ needs or internally to the organization. These goals make it so that performance and success can be more effectively measured. If the process is working effectively, it’s by this performance criteria that an auditor can tell what is being achieved.

In addition, it’s desirable to produce a consistent result; therefore, the process must be under control. Most of us know the wailing sound (output) a loudspeaker makes when a microphone (input) is placed too close to it – that’s called feedback! You can certainly measure the sound level using this practice, but the process is out of control! Our business processes need controls to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

Process controls may be accomplished in many ways, including:
  • People – competent, aware and trained
  • Equipment – capable and maintained (calibrated, if necessary)
  • Methods – procedures and work instructions (as necessary, under document control)
  • Materials – approved, available, identified, etc.
In listing these controls, our gathering of audit topics has grown quickly – but it’s not finished yet. We must also consider some other necessary controls, including documentation controls, non-conformance, records generated from the process, corrective/preventive actions and improvements.

The challenge with preparing for any audit is figuring out the sequence in which to place these so that we can gather useful information about the process, rather than just compliance-based facts. After all, arriving at a machining cell and asking for records of maintenance before you have established what product is being made, how many, and so on, will not reveal much useful information.

To make this process of planning an approach easier for auditors, a number of visual metaphors have been developed. One unique approach that has proven successful in helping auditors to organize these topics into an appropriate sequence – or “game plan” – is called the ‘Football©’.



Using this football-shaped tool to ‘visualize’ the path an internal auditor should take when auditing has a number of advantages:
  1. More comprehensive planning so that all relevant controls are considered, and in their correct sequence. The above example can be easily applied to a manufacturing process. It also can be tailored to fit the structure of audit checklists or questions. This allows information to be gathered and used later to verify performance. This football diagram can assist an audit manager with ensuring the assigned auditor(s) do the relevant research of those requirements and controls so that they develop a better understanding of them before the audit interviews begin. The auditor then has a ‘bigger picture’ to audit and is therefore more likely to identify systematic issues.
  2. Better equipped to evaluate the results of the process when compared to what was planned to happen (not just the transformation of inputs). Auditors are then able to identify places within (or supporting) the process that could cause the plan not to be achieved (scrap, rework, downtime, etc.). 
  3. Better time management through adherence to audit scope, etc. By populating the various ‘bubbles’ (in the example above) with the details of the organization’s management system and/or customer requirements, etc., the auditor is able to get a clearer understanding of the expected outcomes. They are then more capable of identifying where supporting processes are effective, without having to follow multiple “trails.” It is often easy for an internal auditor to be ‘drawn off track’ when evaluating these other criteria and controls (depicted by the football’s laces) that can affect a process – calibration and training, for example. The football can assist auditors in defining the ‘boundaries’ at which point they must decide to return to the normal process flow.
Conducting process-based internal quality management system audits can be an overwhelming task for many auditors. As a result, it is common to have compliance only-based reports (“we did/didn’t follow procedures”) instead of confirming effectiveness of the process. The use of a planning tool like the football to map out an auditing strategy leads to far more effective – and efficient – audits and helps the auditor focus on validating the results of the process to the goal.

Learn more about how to use the football diagram when planning for any process-based QMS audit at The Center's upcoming free Explore event on June 26 from 8:30am-10:30am.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Andy Nichols
Quality Program Manager

Andy has 40 years of expertise in a wide variety of roles and industries, with a focus on quality management systems in manufacturing organizations. In addition to his ISO 9000 Management Systems experience, he has worked extensively with ISO/TS16949, ISO/IEC 17024 and ISO/IEC 17025. His broad practical knowledge of ‘Quality Tools’ includes: SPC, FMEA, Quality Circles, Problem Solving, Internal Auditing and Process Mapping. He also has been an IRCA and RABQSA accredited Lead Auditor.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.